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Monday, December 14, 2009

An attempt at hara-kiri

The Island Editoria 14-12-09

There is a high octane performance on the part of government propagandists and their Opposition counterparts engaged in a ruthless mud-slinging contest.

The government used to boast that it had ensured there were no irregularities in military purchases unlike in the past. But, now, we are being told that while Fonseka was the army commander, his son-in-law was involved in some questionable business deals with the army.

In the aftermath of Prabhakaran’s death, Fonseka pooh-poohed allegations of war crimes against the army. When asked, at the inaugural press conference after entering politics, to comment on moves being made in some quarters to press war crime charges against the Sri Lankan military, Fonseka said those who wanted to do so had to make specific charges with times, dates, locations etc mentioned––the implication being that the allegations levelled against Sri Lanka were baseless. He has also claimed on more than one occasion that he personally handled the successful ground operations which decapitated the LTTE.

Now, we have Fonseka saying he has information that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa ordered a ground commander to kill the LTTE leaders who tried to surrender. (The Sunday Leader of Dec. 13, 2009)

As much as the government's allegations against Fonseka and his son-in-law are tantamount to a self-indictment, Fonseka's charge against Gotabhaya has seriously affected his own credibility in that he contradicts his much advertised claim that he alone commanded the victorious army. If Fonseka says that his ground commanders who steered the army to victory took orders from someone else, how could he justify his attempt to promote himself in politics as the man who won the war and seek the executive presidency in return, as it were?

Both the government and Fonseka, blinded by rage, venom and thirst for power, are sadly serving the purpose of sinister anti-Sri Lankan forces which craftily managed to cause a split in the anti-terrorism camp by pitting Fonseka against Rajapaksa. The wise old folk in this country may call this method 'using a pig's back to chop its own meat'. Fonseka said a few weeks ago, while he was still Chief of Defence Staff, that he had resisted during a tour of the US a move by the US Homeland Security Department to elicit information about Gotabhaya as regards what had happened during the final stages of war. Today, he is levelling a serious allegation against Defence Secretary Rajapaksa and Maj. Gen. Shavindra Silva, an efficient ground commander who became famous for his 170-kilometre-long 'March to the Sea' from Mannar to the eastern coast via Pooneryn. Ironically, Shavindra was handpicked by Fonseka himself for that task over and above others.

Fonseka's allegation amounts to a betrayal of the army that he led in general and of his one-time favourite GOC (General Officer Commanding) in particular. He has said on numerous occasions that he resorted to some unorthodox methods to win the war such as making appointments to key positions on merit regardless of the so-called seniority list. An oft-cited example was how he had catapulted Shavindra to the post of GOC.

Curiously, Fonseka has sourced his information of the Defence Secretary's alleged order to kill LTTE leaders to some embedded journalists who, too, were his blue-eyed boys! He ought to name the journalist/s who furnished that information.

Government leaders and military commanders equally deserve both the credit for victory and the blame for military excesses and corrupt deals, if any. As for the allegations against Fonseka and his son-in-law, the government must take its share of the blame because it took them for granted and waited till Fonseka left the army and entered politics to make an issue of them. What if Fonseka had not fallen from grace? The government would have remained mum on his son-in-law. By the same token, if there had been an illegal order from the government to the ground commanders to liquidate LTTE leaders who offered to surrender, Fonseka as the army commander should have intervened to ensure the safety of the terrorists concerned in defiance of the fiat at issue. Sun Tzu said about two and a half millennia ago in his famous military treatise, The Art of War, that there were certain commands from the political leadership that the commander must not obey! He said:

There are roads which must not be followed,

armies which must be not attacked, towns which must

not be besieged, positions which must not be contested,

commands of the Sovereign which must not be obeyed. (Emphasis added)

Meanwhile, the government, while denying Fonseka’s accusation, told the media yesterday that he had said at a felicitation ceremony at Dharmashoka College, Ambalangoda last July that it was he who ordered that the LTTE leaders surrendering with white flags be killed. His statement was cited as evidence by the countries that tried to initiate a war crimes probe against Sri Lanka.

It behoves the government worthies exuding venom from every pore and Fonseka on the warpath to realise that by trading allegations of war crimes they are only playing into the hands of their mutual enemies awaiting an opportunity to haul them up before a war crime tribunal. They had better look beyond Jan. 26, 2010.

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